Brian Monteith: Edinburgh’s silent discos need to turn down the volume

People in silent discos can start singing like nobody's listening ' loudly and badly
People in silent discos can start singing like nobody's listening ' loudly and badly
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Every city council needs a Moira Knox. How Edinburgh has missed the great battle-axe from Blackhall (actually she was very polite – like Jacob Rees-Mogg but in a twinset and pearls). There are a lot of “small c” conservatives across all the parties, be they social conservatives, economic conservatives or cultural conservatives – and Moira could speak up for all of them.

Our council should have people from all walks of life and be able to hear and give vent to all sorts of views; and so it was only right that Moira spoke out for a great many people, especially those who wanted the world to turn just a little slower, a little more convivially – and a little more quietly.

So I thought I would write this week about the brave stand being taken by Cllr Jo Mowat who has argued that consideration needs to be given to regulating the appearance of silent discos in Edinburgh. She’s been taking some pelters and typically has been misrepresented by some, but she would not be doing her job if she didn’t speak up for local city centre residents who feel nobody is on their side.

For the uninitiated, let me explain that silent discos – or silent clubbing and other such “silent” events – are when people gather together and are able to enjoy the experience without a public address system. That’s right, no big blaring speakers beating out a bass rhythm or delivering a falsetto that would shatter your window from fifty paces.

The introduction of silent walking tours, where people wear earphones when they go round the capital on entertaining tours that can include dance, is a natural fit for Edinburgh’s plethora of historical, ghostly, literary and architectural tours.

READ MORE: Edinburgh council could ban silent discos – due to noise complaints

Silent discos mean you can have dancing in the streets but without a disco on the back of a trailer or a Radio Forth Roadshow. The problem is that while the music is inside the earphones the vocal reactions of some listeners is not.

Of course, people will get carried away – it’s music after all – and some will start singing along with the songs or finding something to provide a little percussion. But we’re not talking of scenes from “Fame” with cartwheels between traffic and dancing on cars. Well, at least not yet.

What may be intended as “silent” can therefore become noisy to residents – just another addition to the cacophony of bagpipes, buskers, tour bus commentaries, busy traffic and late night revellers who have forgotten they are not singing in their shower.

READ MORE: Video: Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour is anything but silent

Jo Mowat is therefore right, some consideration has to be given for others by those participating in the silent discos or tours. City centre residents can’t expect to have complete silence – cities are not like that – but they should be able to expect a degree of consideration from others that while they enjoy their sounds coming down their cans they are not belting out Abba or Meatloaf at the top of their voice.

After all, in a normal situation without earphones it could, after a first warning, be considered a breach of the peace.

There is no need for a ban, and Jo Mowat is not calling for one, but for the sake of Edinburgh people who do actually live here full time, there is no harm in establishing some ground rules for what is mainly enjoyed by here-today-gone-tomorrow visitors.

We want them to have a great time and a memorable experience in Edinburgh, but not at the expense of those who live and work here.

Working out with the operators some rules of best practice that rely on existing by-laws makes sense and can actually ensure that any rogue operators who only appear during the Festival don’t spoil it for everyone.

I’ve no doubt Moira Knox would be cheering on Jo Mowat were she still with us.